Inductin’ Dunkin’: What Brands Can Learn from the Newest OAAA Hall of Famer

June 13, 2024

OUTFRONT wasn’t the only one getting our flowers at this year’s OAAA Conference. Dunkin’ was inducted into our industry’s Hall of Fame! It’s easy to understand why, as the QSR brand stands among our most prolific, most long-term advertisers. Its evolution as a practitioner of out of home advertising mirrors the growth and expansion of OOH itself – which means there’s lots here for other advertisers to learn.

Dunkin’ ads have been capturing pop culture’s attention ever since the early 1980s, when going viral meant everyone in America repeating Fred the Baker’s “time to make the donuts” catchphrase. Today, the brand’s still got it – just ask Jennifer Lopez.

Animated gif of Jennifer Lopez pulling up to Ben Affleck working the drive-thru at a Dunkin' and asking what are you doing here

Dunkin’s media buyers manage to pull off a delicate balancing act that combines top-of-funnel brand building and lower-funnel footfall. In its earlier days, the brand's OOH presence came from the bottom up, with franchisees designing their own creative. Today, its corporate team works to standardize the look-and-feel to tell a cohesive brand story, while that story is told a little bit differently in each market. What’s the key ingredient that gives Dunkin’ campaigns local flavor?

It's contextual relevance! And one of the brand’s favorite vectors for contextual relevance is sports. Official partnerships with local teams allow the brand to integrate team logos and colors into its campaign creative, while the flexibility of DOOH allows for hyper localized, real-time messaging.

Contextually relevant Dunkin ad in Philly
For example, New York Knicks and Rangers fans attending home games will often encounter gametime-specific Dunkin’ creative on our 65-foot-high Penn Digital spectacular, an OUTFRONT PRIME unit that spans the entire northeast corner of 33rd and 7th, directly across from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

Dunkin campaign on NYC Penn Digital spectacular
Dunkin’ has also used that same board (and others) to hype up its two Super Bowl commercials featuring Ben Affleck. With this year’s Super Bowl ads selling for $7 million a spot, it made sense to link OOH and TV creative – in fact, that creative alignment doubles brand recall (SOURCE: System1).

Dunkin billboard says Something's Ben Brewing
The end of a hockey game isn’t exactly the peak time for coffee sales, so Dunkin’ also maintains a presence on digital billboards and transit media along commuter corridors. During those peak a.m. hours Dunkin’ will often roadblock screens in key locations, booking them solid for an hour at a time. This tactic ensures brand saturation and message exposure for all who pass the billboard in the moments when demand for coffee and donuts is highest.

Contextually relevant Dunkin ad at WMATA station in DC
In its core northeastern markets, Dunkin’ relies heavily on a billboard perm plan, staking its exclusive long-term presence on the canvases most important to impacting its audience. The consistency and duration of perms allows brands to move beyond just introducing themselves, and instead tell their story more deeply, with more contextual relevance and seasonal nuance, to an audience that’s gotten to know them in these locations.

Contextually relevant transit ad for Dunkin in Boston
As for what’s actually in the ads, Dunkin’ takes it back to basics with the four P’s – product, price, promotion, and place. Here’s how each fit into the Dunkin’ OOH strategy:
  • Product: QSRs like Dunkin’ frequently have new, limited-time food and beverage offerings to showcase; digital out of home lets them allocate as much or as little spend as needed to those new products.
  • Price: With the eye-watering rise in the cost of living, 84% of consumers say they find restaurant deals useful dynamic DOOH content (SOURCE: The Harris Poll). By putting a bold, bright spotlight on deals, Dunkin’ pushes back on the idea of coffee as an indulgence.
  • Promotion: Since the brand executes promotions through its mobile app-based Dunkin’ Rewards loyalty program, highlighting those promos via out of home can not only create incremental sales, but also drive app downloads – a KPI for which OOH sees 4.8x more activation per dollar than other advertising channels (SOURCE: Comscore).
  • Place: Of course, Dunkin’ isn’t in the business of app downloads – it’s in the business of selling donuts and coffee. At the end of the day, its success is judged by revenue. Understandably, a portion of its media plan goes toward boosting foot traffic and sales for specific stores. The agility of digital out of home is what makes that level of granularity feasible for a brand with 12,000 locations.

DOOH billboard for Dunkin Rewards
Dunkin’ earned its induction to the OAAA Hall of Fame through years of embracing technological advances like programmatic buying and dynamic creative while keeping a focus on marketing fundamentals and a finger on the pulse of the consumer.

“They’re a brand that appreciates the value of out of home,” said Paul Lenhart, OUTFRONT Group Vice President, National Sales, who has worked with Dunkin’ for years. “They’re receptive to anything that’s a new way to make the brand feel more relevant locally.”

“They have a lot of locations and they’re always looking to evolve their message to stay as relevant as possible,” he continued. “When you have that setup and you’re committed to the channel, cool things happen.”

So congrats, Dunkin’ – you earned this.

For everyone else - if you want to make cool things happen for your brand too, OUTFRONT can help. Get in touch today.

Author: Jay Fenster, Marketing Manager @ OUTFRONT
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